Section IV: Introduction


WebQuest Academy (Target Population, Expected Outcomes, and Process)

You've heard it, we have all heard it, every student has said it "Why do we have to learn this?" Whether we like this question or not, it is a legitimate one. Unfortunately, students experience too few activities that demonstrate how classroom concepts and skills are applied in the real world. The WebQuest Academy project is designed to do exactly that.

While participating in motivating and challenging Internet activities called WebQuests, approximately 1250 students in K through 12th grade in the Warrensburg R-VI School District will improve their skills in problem-solving, responsible decision making, communication, and technology use, and will increase their performance in the four content areas (math, science, social studies, and communication arts).

We live in an exciting time of technological advancement, where online communication and information access is a part of everyday life, even in the classroom. In Missouri alone, the number of Internet-connected computers in schools almost doubled in the last year, from 37,557 in 1997, to 63,833 in 1998 (according to the Missouri School District Computing Census). This amazing growth corresponds to a huge increase in the number of high quality educational resources available on the World Wide Web. The task for teachers is to learn how to effectively integrate these resources into the curriculum. Fifty teachers involved in the WebQuest Academy project will receive four days of intensive training and will master a variety of skills involving the integration of technology, particularly WebQuests and other Internet resources.

Participating WebQuest Academy teachers will create their own WebQuest that is designed to meet the needs of their students and curriculum. Following the training sessions, teachers will have their students conduct the WebQuests they created, working in small groups in computer "mini-labs" provided by this grant. The WebQuest activities created by teachers will require that students create solutions to real-world problems, after researching the problems using high quality Internet resources. During this process students will communicate by email with adult experts, representing various professions. The adult experts will help them to understand how the concepts and skills they have learned in the classroom are used to solve problems in the real world. Students will then apply what they have learned as they create solutions to the problems posed by the WebQuest.

The Missouri Show-me Standards are a powerful statement of the importance of offering students learning experiences that are engaging and motivating, and repeatedly indicate that students are to engage in real world, problem-solving situations, in which they can learn to communicate effectively and work cooperatively. Challenging WebQuests that are custom-designed for the curriculum can be the springboard that teachers use to meet these instructional challenges. Finding the time to learn about the software and equipment, and how they can be used in instruction, however, is often the barrier that prevents teachers from using such technology. This grant, along with matching money from the school district, will provide the training and materials that teachers need to carry out the project.

After participating in our WebQuest activities, in which they learn how classroom concepts are used to solve real-world problems, our students will no longer feel the need to ask the eternal question "Why do we need to learn this?"

How Other Districts can Adapt/Adopt

A goal of this program is to provide teachers with the training and materials they need to allow students to use technology in motivating problem-solving activities. Although the resulting WebQuest web sites will be impressive, the technology and skills involved are relatively simple and such a program could easily be adopted by other school districts. The key element is to have a training program that is substantial enough, with release time for teachers (or stipends if the training is held outside of contract time). The ideal approach is to have a full-time teacher-trainer, with the time and resources to effectively facilitate the workshops. It would also be possible to provide extra salary for a technology-savvy teacher in the district to provide after-school or weekend training sessions.

Internet connected computers, of course, are needed to carry out WebQuest activities. The ideal situation is to have students working in groups, in a "mini-lab" of 5 to 7 Internet connected computers. Providing such a "mini-lab" for a school is much less expensive than a full computer lab of 25 or more computers.
If a school district were to send a staff member to visit the WebQuest Academy project coordinator and observe the project activities, most of the vital information could be learned in one day (assuming a pre-existing basic knowledge of technology). This staff member then could return to his or her district and implement this type of program.

Community Description

Warrensburg is located in central Missouri, in Johnson County, at the junction of Highway 50 and 13. The community, approximately one hour away from Kansas City, has a population of 17,200 for the city and 22,074 for the school district. The Warrensburg R-VI School District is composed of 121 square miles, and has four elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, and one area vocational-technical school. Enrollment is approximately 3200 students. Education is a major enterprise in the community. The Warrensburg R-VI system has a total employment of 440, while Central Missouri State University employs about 1,000. Other major employers include Unitog (industrial uniforms); Stahl Specialty (aluminum castings); Rival Manufacturing (home appliances); and Hawker Energy (small rechargeable batteries).